Vanguard sued for discrimination over hiring of financial planning manager

The firm vehemently denies that it based decision on race

Oct 9, 2009 @ 12:05 pm

By David Hoffman

The Vanguard Group Inc. is alleged to have violated federal law when it refused to hire an black applicant because of her race, according to a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Barbara Alexander was the only black applicant for a financial planning manager position at Vanguard's Charlotte, N.C., office, according to the EEOC suit, which was filed Sept. 30 in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia.

During a lengthy application process, she was told she was “obviously qualified for the position,” but Vanguard later claimed it did not select her because she was “unqualified,” in part because she did not have any financial planner certification, the suit alleges.

Rebecca Katz, a spokeswoman for Vanguard staunchly refuted the claim.

“Vanguard does not tolerate discrimination of any kind and we have a deep commitment to hiring and retaining a diverse work force, believing that diversity of people, ideas and viewpoints is one of our most important assets,” she said in an e-mail today. “We believe that the allegations in the complaint have no merit.”

The suit goes on to claim that Vanguard hired a less-qualified white applicant who lacked the certified financial planner designation, and who — unlike Ms. Alexander — did not have work experience in the financial planning area.

Ms. Alexander had 14 years of financial management experience and an MBA in finance, according to the EEOC.

“Unfortunately, 45 years after enactment of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, the EEOC continues to see far too many cases of race discrimination against African-Americans,” Debra Lawrence, acting regional attorney with the EEOC's Philadelphia district office, said in a statement. “This lawsuit should remind employers that the EEOC will take action when a company impermissibly makes hiring decisions based on the race of the applicants instead of on their experience and qualifications.”

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